Home  › Email › Email Marketing

An E-Mail Marketer's Guide to Deliverability, Part 3: DomainKeys

  |  February 28, 2005   |  Comments

The ins and outs of anti-spam technologies -- in layman's terms. Last of a three-part series.

This series has addressed SenderID and other important new technologies aiding email deliverability, including the particulars of SPF. Today we'll cover DomainKeys, another emerging technology. As he did with SPF and Sender ID, Rick Buck, director of privacy/ISP relations at e-dialog, helped me understand DomainKeys and more importantly, how it differs from SPF and Sender ID.

DomainKeys

DomainKeys takes email authentication a step further than SPF and Sender ID. Like these technologies, DomainKeys uses information published in a sender's DNS (define) record. The twist comes at the send. Here, DomainKeys requires an extra step: a digital "signature" must be attached to each outgoing message.

When the recipient gets the message, they'll be able to:

  • verify the domain name of the sender.

  • confirm the message content hasn't been altered.

  • match the "from" address to the sender's domain name to prevent forgeries.

  • trace the message back to the sender's domain name.

The ability to trace email back to the sender (at least, to the sender's domain name) has long been cited as part of the technical solution to spam. It adds accountability. It's like that old saying about making sure you wouldn't mind everything you say or do printed on the front page of the New York Times, except in this case, it's everything you send via email. Conventional wisdom says most spammers don't want to be tracked down and held accountable, so this may be a deterrent.

There's also talk about building a "reputation" for each sender. So if (heaven forbid) you're a serial spammer, that information can be built into your DomainKeys profile and your email blocked, even if without that element it would pass. DomainKeys allow the recipient to set their own delivery policies; DomainKeys may be one element, weighted according to other anti-spam policies that may be in place.

Unlike SPF and Sender ID, DomainKeys can be set with an expiration date, replaced if necessary or simply revoked. An email service provider (ESP) can assign unique DomainKey pairs to each person who uses their system, and modify anyone's status at will.

Another difference: while DomainKeys in its current form is geared toward ISPs and enterprise-level email servers, it could be modified for use with individual email clients. Even if your ISP doesn't use DomainKeys technology, you could add it to your Eudora, Outlook, Thunderbird or other desktop email software to filter your incoming messages.

As with all these technologies, it's not perfect. Most industry experts agree DomainKeys is a more comprehensive solution than SPF or Sender ID. But they'll also say while due diligence has been conducted on the technology, there's currently not enough industry support to make it a viable solution.

Yahoo developed the DomainKeys technology (Sendmail is a partner). They implemented it on their servers in November, 2004. Earthlink began using the technology the same day. DomainKey signatures were spotted in outgoing Gmail messages a month earlier, sparking reports Google supports the DomainKeys standard. As far as I've seen, Google has made no comment. I haven't heard of any other ISPs, or ESPs for that matter, implementing DomainKeys yet. Most are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Experts agree some real world testing will help determine whether DomainKeys is a viable long term solution. Many sources will tell you SPF, Sender ID and DomainKeys are progressive technologies that will likely be implemented in quick succession as anti-spam and anti-fraud technologies are fine-tuned.

A potential rub: While there isn't as much hullabaloo surrounding DomainKeys as around Sender ID, it does appear Yahoo is patenting some of the technology. This is one of the big concerns with Microsoft-developed Sender ID, as the Internet is built on open source software. It remains to be seen if the same protests will erupt regarding DomainKeys. In general, media coverage and conversations I've had regarding DomainKeys have been positive.

That said, nothing's perfect. Some have identified issues with various email clients, problems with headers altered by email programs, and other things that "break" DomainKeys. That's why the technology is being tested: to identify kinks and work them out.

To learn more, visit:

The technology side of the anti-spam fight is really heating up. We'll see where this takes us. Addressing the problem will go a long way in helping legitimate marketers use the email channel even more successfully.

ClickZ Live New York Want to learn more?
Attend ClickZ Live New York March 30 - April 1. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live brings together over 60 expert speakers to offer an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a recognized expert in the email marketing industry and managing director of digital marketing for Digital Prism Advisors. She has more than 20 years of experience in the email and online marketing and product development world. Jeanne's direct-response approach to digital strategy, tactics, and creative direction helps organizations make their online marketing initiatives more effective and more profitable. Digital Prism Advisors helps established businesses unlock significant growth and revenue opportunities in the digital marketplace; our clients learn to develop and implement successful digital strategies, leveraging data and technology to better meet bottom line goals. Want to learn more? Check out Jeanne's blog and Digital Prisim Advisors.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Email newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

A Buyer's Guide to Affiliate Management Software

A Buyer's Guide to Affiliate Management Software
Manage your performance marketing with the right solution. Choose a platform that will mutually empower advertisers and media partners!

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

Jobs

    • Website Optimizer - SEO, CRO, Analytics
      Website Optimizer - SEO, CRO, Analytics (Marcel Digital) - ChicagoMarcel Digital, an award winning interactive marketing agency established in 2003...
    • Director of Marketing
      Director of Marketing (Patron Technology) - New YorkDirector of Marketing We are seeking a Director of Marketing to manage and build our marketing...
    • Senior Interactive Producer
      Senior Interactive Producer (Ready Set Rocket) - New YorkWhat You'll Do As a member of our team, the Senior Producer reports directly to our...